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Submitted by TSchow on


I am seeing a pattern in business I am not sure if it's me, the type of work, or my approach to the issue.

I did my research on the company reputation, CEO, manager all of these people checked out as what kind of company I want to work for, but the senior engineer is usually impossible to do research on. So here is the problem.

The senior engineer has stated he wants all of the work, and if someone has nothing to do then the company will lay them off. I guess he wants me laid off. I wonder if he had someone in mind for the position he has stated he has several kids about my age, and I have seen a lot of nepotism. Every time I have come across this kind of situation where a more entrenched person wants something I have lost the war. So far I talked with the person face to face and laid out the issue of the work load. Then I bring up situations where I could have taken something on and the senior engineer did not have to work beyond his normal working hours. I could do something closer to what I negotiated for, and can contribute to the teams effort where my skill set bring in value. He then stated he should get the work because he knows more, well in private I politely corrected in fundamentals to the job else he would be testing thing incorrectly. He is no longer stating he knows more. My plan for this forward is to remain quiet , not fight with him, and look for a new position.

In the past when I have brought these items up to the boss I have only gotten retaliation from the senior engineers. In general with Aerospace each company needs to have instrumentation to sell their products, but the people who get into those positions don't necessarily have the education behind them. When someone is brought in with the education and while sharing information we find mistakes. Followed by more control of the work load and retaliation to the boss's ear. Most managers will seek and follow the senior engineers opinion on how the new hire is doing. Hence the retaliation in the form of a poor review.

Most people in this same discipline if they have an ethical bone in their body only focus on their own projects then don't say anything to anyone else.

For the last 6 years this is my 3rd situation similar to this. The first the senior engineer would assaulte me then sabotage my work. The sabotage started when the principle investigators started coming to me for information and ideas. I guess the principle investigators wanted to work with someone who showed enthusiasm towards what we did.

The second the senior engineer would put my name on his work then publish it. His work was usually technically incorrect, and at one time he was open about being fired for similar ethical issues. The manager who was a drafts man backed the senior engineer and then blocked me from transferring. I was eventually laid off for whistle blowing on this senior engineer for breach of contract, falsifying test data, etc...
Finally the current senior engineer problem listed above.

naraa's picture
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 I don´t envy you. It sounds like a terrible environment to be in.  I work in engineering projects and I have heard some companies have a bad work environment because as people get hired per project, when projects are finished, a lot of people get laid off, so some people do sabotage other people´s projects so the guy responsible for the project doesn´t do too well and he is lay off instead of themselves.  Luckily, the engineering market, at least in South America has been so good for the past 7 years or so that that mentality is changing.  The mentality does change a lot slower than the market though.  Some people who have been through the bad years do have difficulty sharing work load and work information.  I have never heard it is as bad as what you are describing though.   Do you specialise in the area of aerospace instrumentation, could you migrate to a perhaps more open, fresher industry?  Other than that, if you are experiencing the same situation for the third time, try to look this time not at how the other people are acting but analise how you have acted previously and what can you do now differently to win the war this time.  Well, first of all I wouldn´t call it a war.  If you put this guy as your enemy, he will be your enemy.  I know from what you describe it does look like a "war", and I am in no way justifying the senior engineers behaviour, but try to put yourself in the other people´s shoes to understand them, and their motives a bit better, and perhaps even care for them.  Usually when people behave this way is because they are scared more than anything else, their actions are: "let´s attack before we get attacked."  And you thinking it is a war won´t help.  

My first job was in a company who had been through an adquisition and reengineering process not to many years before.  I couldn´t understand people´s behaviour at first (in terms of being afraid of sharing, etc) until I heard in a bit more details the stories of people getting fired some years before.  Once I knew the stories, I could understand them and no longer judge them based on my experience and my reality, which was different from theirs.

With regards to your question whether it is you, the type of work, or your approach, I would say it is a combination of the three.  There is probably a big component of how the business is, you are a threat to them, and your approach to it is also taking part.  You may be correct on your interpretation that this guy perhaps wanted somebody else for your position, but that is too much speculation on too little information.   What you say the senior engineer says about people that do not have work being laid off, is not that he wants you to get laid off, he is afraid he will be laid off.  It is important to observe and analyse what is going on, but to draw too many conclusiones from it and concentrate our efforts based on this conclusions is not healthy for oneself and not healthy for the organisation.  Some more practical recommendations:

1) Do you have to report for the senior engineer?  Who assigns the work to you?  If you have one-on-ones (or some sort of meeting time) with your boss you can take this meetings to focus on the work you need to be doing.  State a list of works you are doing and ask for more, or give suggestions on something else you could be doing.  If you don´t have one-on-ones with your boss you are going to have to try to get this meetings, project updates, with him/her.  I believe there is a manager-tools podcast on it.  If the senior engineer is your boss, then you have to find a way to relate with him, slowly, don´t let your fear of being fired for not having enough work interfere with it.  If you do it slowly, with love, care, concern with this guy, eventually he will see there is enough work for the both of you, and that he can actually learn from you.  Perhaps you want to more too quickly.  At least this is the experience I have had with some young, generation Y employees, their pace is quicker than ours (generation X) and also baby boomers, they want more, much more quicker than we are prepared to give, simply because they think they are ready for more, while we think they need some more training.   Finding the middle ground is sometimes difficult.  If you  have not done so, perhaps reading a bit about the differences in generations might help, also the DISC to identify your type of communication style versus of the people you are working with.

2) If you do find a mistake in somebody else´s work, don´t go on reporting it to your boss. Report it directly to the person that made the mistake and explain, teach him/her why.  The person will be defensive first, but it is more ethical than comming to it to your boss.  If you do have to come to your boss to inform the mistake (for  example because it is not being fixed by the other person), then please advice the other person first that you will inform your boss.  There is also a manager-tools podcast on that, I can´t remember which one, with regards to letting people know up front that they are late and will need to report they are late on the meeting.

3) Do not come to your boss complaining about people.  Come to him/her asking for more work, or just grab work for yourself (usually there is lots of opportunity for improvement) if you have free  time.

Finally, managers may not know the details of what is going on in terms of personal frictions, but usually they do know what goes on, and they do know  their people.  And good managers can identify the good guys quite quickly, you may not get the recognition as quickly as you may want though.   You have to be concern about getting credit for what you do, but concentrate on the work first and on the relationship with not just your boss but the senior guys, that´s the message perhaps you must get, you have to work with them before getting recognition from above.  I know it can be frustrating, and it is frustrating for managers as well to have sometimes intermediate guys blocking in the excitement, but all parts are necessary.




timrutter's picture

Don't worry about winning, because you won't. It's time to find another job


TSchow's picture
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  Thank you for the advice and suggestions.

                From my studies in a MBA program sociopaths are attracted and flourish in my industry. Which explains why during the pre interview screening we have to watch ethics videos, and why the ethics videos do not work. Based on my findings it's time for a career change.


                Unfortunately I have learned "How to fight the issue". Which is simple build your network, have a champion to fight for you. (A champion is someone who is close, trusted by the manager, and who will bring your issue up to the manager). In the first case I did not have a champion, and the person who was attaching me had no problem losing his job. He got marked down on a evaluation, and not promoted. I was laid off.

                In the second case I had a champion who did fight my case. Eventually I was move away from his help and I had others who would go to HR on my and others behalf. The manager, who we later figured out was the problem, kept his job by sacrificing the technical people, and blocking them from transferring. The manager blocked people from transferring by black listing them.

                The final case the person who was supposed to be my mentor was the problem. I eventually was looking for a transfer and one of my coworkers jumped in and became my champion. The problem person apologized to me, and demined any wrong doing. Wow how many people would actually admitted to a mistake. He continued to cause problems, and I documented them later to present these issues to the manager. I did not know the problem person had worked with the manager for 25 years. Go figure, I was the 5th person to have problems with him. Like the rest when layoffs came around I was the last one hired, and first one to go.


                One of the areas I have been working on is "How to determine when to leave"? For some people this is obvious to me it was not. From my previous experience is if the person is willing to get physical, sabotage, and all of the other things associated with sociopathic behavior, and management is not willing to do anything. It's time to go. The final area is when the problem person is friends with the manager or is willing to be late on assignments in order to gain political standing with the manager.


                The finally actionable item "what do while the issue is happening". Is what the guys talk about build your network. Beware an internal network could be an item the sociopath is looking to attack you one. Meet both internal and external to the organization.